IS UNAI EMERY JUST AN ARSENE WENGER CONTINUUM? by Nicholas Oyoo
It is perhaps too early to speculate after just one game, but Arsenal have lost at home to Manchester City 2-0. It means they did not breech the goal of their opposition. It means their defense conceded twice and it means top four is quickly becoming a goal just a bit too far, especially when all our top rivals won their matches.
Shake Up Things
Unai Emery had the opportunity to shake up things but chose to largely stick with the Arsenal of the old. He named Laurent Koscielny as Captain 1, Petr Cech Captain 2, Aaron Ramsey Captain 3, Mesut Ozil Captain 4 and Granit Xhaka Captain 5. Some of these players despite their long association with Arsenal have been associated with what is the bad seasons at Arsenal and it can only be like rewarding mediocrity. Instead Emery should have named just Petr Cech captain after Koscielny and reserved the other 3 slots for performance rewards and players that perform exceptionally in the next month would have been named.
Arsenal have been known to give curious good contracts to players not doing very well. Arsenal have also been known to try pleasing players who seem to have ambivalence like what Ramsey is now doing and that may have negative effects on other players. We can all remember Alexis Sanchez. In the end, Xhaka looks like he will be starting, Mustafi looks like he will still be keeping his uninspiring performances in the first team.
Fire Power Poorly Deployed
In Aubameyang, Lacazette, Welbeck, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Ramsey and a host of young players like Nelson Reiss, Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, among others, Arsenal should have arguably the best fire power in the division. Yet Arsenal are struggling to score just like they have done in the past with Arsene Wenger in charge. How come we could only muster 3 on target out of 8 shots and they had 16 shots with 7 on target? Arsenal may not have specialist wingers but they have players who can put in very effective wing shifts. Unai Emery must find an effective frontal powder keg mixture for explosive firepower, really fast. Ozil for instance playing out of position make him rather a liability in the proceedings. Arsene Wenger was key in keeping Giroud and Sanchez away from each other by preferring to play one or the other many times. He also started by playing Aubameyang or Lacazette rather than the two together until late in the season and Unai has started in reign in the same fashion.
Certainly, against Manchester City, Unai had his best players on the bench and this was clear when Lucas Toreirra and Alexandre Lacazette came in and brought more industry into the game. Making one wonder why keep the best plan away from the match, and start with a plan that should be the alternative, just in case the first did not work and not the other way around. Bench power is not about waiting to deploy the best but rather players who can fit in the first XI when someone in the best team suffers loss of form, injury or is ineffective against a particular team.
Finally, the play pattern remains the same and Unai must have missed an opportunity to pull the rabbit from the hat and surprise Manchester City. He should have learned from that baptism of fire and should make up for it against Chelsea and avoid developing an Arsene 2.0 calm and undisturbed management policy, where everyone knows the team sheet for the next match and the pattern of play.
My preferable play pattern and the players would be a variation of 3.5.2
Let’s forget we have Xhaka and Mustafi in our line up. The better this is resolved quickly the better. Let’s stop the appeasement of Aaron Ramsey and let him win back his place, rather than we string to give him prominence. In this lineup Mhkitaryan and Ozil share a double false 9 roles. Nelson will have a free role to run in all the wings and will be subbed in second half by Emile Rowe Smith in the same role. The kids can run around and Mkhitaryan will have the role to help out in the wings. Lacazette and Aubameyang will also play roles in respective wings and share out the striking roles. Ozil and Mkhitaryan can arrive to strike when opportunity opens. It’s a mobile frontal charge capable of pressing and playing at the best capabilities of the squad. If need be Xhaka or Elneny could come in to tighten the midfield further with Nelson giving way. The triple anchor in the midfield would hold the ball in the centre to wait for openings rather than let it run into our defensive areas. This is a risk worth taking against Chelsea and I suspect it would work.
Manchester city was an opportunity lost to try something unique.